Applying the Polarized Training Model, with Dr. Stephen Seiler

Dr. Stephen Seiler breaks down the application of the polarized training model, addressing what is meant by the two thresholds—LT1 and LT2—and how to determine yours. We also discuss why it’s important not to over-estimate LT1 or LT2, and how to use them to determine your zones in a three-zone model.

Dr. Stephen Seiler

In episode 51, which we published several weeks ago, we had the chance to speak with Jay-Z — or at least the Jay-Z of the exercise physiology world, Dr. Stephen Seiler. We took a deep dive into the polarized model of endurance training … or so we thought.

We probably received more questions about that episode than any other episode to date. Many of you wanted to know more about how to execute a polarized training plan. We thought about doing a special episode to answer all of your questions, but instead, we begged and pleaded with Dr. Seiler to share a lovely late-summer Norwegian afternoon with us. He generously obliged.

During our conversation, we discussed:

  • Why cycling is an aerobic sport
  • What is meant by the two thresholds  LT1 and LT2  and how to determine yours, both in terms of power and heart rate. Dr. Seiler provides a test protocol to determine LT2, which may sound very similar to Neal Henderson’s test that was described in episode 33, “Is FTP dead?”
  • Why it’s important not to over-estimate LT1 or LT2, and how to use them to determine your zones in a three-zone model.
  • The specifics of zone 1 training: how long, how much, how easy? We take a deep dive into what zone 1 training is all about, why it’s important to keep those rides easy, and the value of long rides.
  • Finally, we discuss the 80-20 principle of the polarized model and how to put it into practice to map out your week.

One thing to note: A lot of listeners asked for example numbers to help them better understand the polarized approach. We chose to use Trevor’s numbers for a few reasons. First, he’s a big believer in polarized training and has much success with it. Second, he’s a very aerobically developed cyclist. Third, like many of you, he’s a master’s rider with limited time to train. Finally, the data was readily available allowing us to give example numbers throughout.

Our featured guest is, of course, Dr. Stephen Seiler, a professor of sports science in Norway, where he has lived for over 20 years. He sits on the executive board of the well-respected European University College for Sports Science. It was his groundbreaking research that helped define the polarized model.

We also hear from Dr. John Hawley, another prominent name in the exercise science world from Australia. His research over the past few decades has helped to define endurance sports training and nutrition. He talks with us about one of the important, but lesser-known, gains of long rides.

Primary Guests
Dr. Stephen Seiler: Leading exercise physiologist

Episode Transcript


Welcome to Fast Talk the VeloNews podcast and everything you need to know to ride.


Chris Case  00:11

Hello and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m Chris Case managing editor of velonews joined by the extraordinarily a robot Coach Trevor Connor. In Episode 51, which we published several weeks ago, we had a chance to speak with Jay Z. Or at least the Jay Z of the exercise physiology world. Dr. Steven Seiler. We took a deep dive into the polarized model of endurance training, or so we thought we probably received more questions about that episode than any episode. To date. Many of you wanted to know more about how to execute a polarized training plan. We thought about doing a special episode to answer all those questions. But instead, we begged, we pleaded we got Dr. Seiler to share a lovely late summer Norwegian afternoon with us. He generously obliged and shares many more details about the polarized approach in today’s episode, the things we do for our devoted Fast Talk listeners. During our conversation we discussed first, why Cycling is an aerobic sport. Secondly, what is meant by the two thresholds lt one and lt two and how you can go about determining yours both in terms of power and heart. Dr. Seiler provides a test protocol to determine lt two, which may sound very similar to Neil Henderson’s test that was described in Episode 33 is FTP dead? If you haven’t listened to that episode, please check it out. It’s one of our most popular However, in Dr. silos approach. And in his explanation, he doesn’t feel like the 20 minute test is adequate. Three, why it’s important not to overestimate lt one or lt two, and how to use them to determine your zones in a three zone model. For several of you asked about zone one training, how long, how much, and especially how easy, we take a deep dive into why it’s important to keep those rides easy, and the value of long rides. Finally, we talked about the 8020 principle of the polarized model and how to put it into practice to map out your week. One thing to know, a lot of listeners asked, for example, numbers to help them better understand the polarized approach. We chose to use Trevor’s numbers for a few reasons. First, he’s a big believer in polarized training and has had much success with it. Second, he’s a very aerobic Lee developed cyclist. Third, like many of you, he’s a Masters rider with limited time to train. Finally, the data was readily available, allowing us to give example numbers throughout. Trevor has specifically asked me to remind everyone out there that he isn’t sharing his numbers because he is an egotistical machine. He’s just an aerobic machine. Our featured guest today is of course Dr. Steven Siler, Professor of sports science in Norway, where he has lived for 22 years. He sits on the executive board of the well respected European University College for sports science, was his groundbreaking research that helped define the polarized model. We also hear from Dr. JOHN Holley, Another prominent name in the exercise science world from Australia. His research over the past few decades has helped to define Endurance Sports training and nutrition. He talks with us about one of the important but lesser known gains of long rides. Finally, we speak with keel reinen of the trek segafredo World Tour team. He’ll spoke with us about why even pros sometimes refer to a day rides. So are you ready to know what going easy really means? Are you ready to understand what some of the great endurance athletes are doing to train? Are you ready to get polarized? Well, let’s make you fast.


Chris Case  03:50

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Chris Case  04:42

The response that we got from the first episode with Dr. Seiler was incredible and the letters and emails and things keep pouring in Actually, I don’t see that abating anytime soon. But we’re lucky enough to have him on the show a second time and we want to to dive even deeper into the polarized approach, get more details on just sort of putting it in practical terms how to execute on all the things we spoke about last time in that episode 51 I believe it was. Let’s dive right in and get started here.


Trevor Connor  05:18

One thing I have to bring up and I hope all the listeners appreciate this. It is a Sunday afternoon. Dr. Seiler just told us that school starts up tomorrow. So he is literally spending the end of his summer talking to us, because he wants to get this information out to all of us. So please show your appreciation. He’s on Twitter. He is very active on Twitter. I would say go and follow him use lots of great information.


Chris Case  05:44

A Norwegian summer at that a beautiful Norwegian summer is coming to a close and Dr. Sadler is with us. Jay Z as we like to call him Jay Z.


Dr. Steven Seiler  05:53

It could snow next week. Yeah. Oh, you guys are making me sound like making a big sacrifice. But this is a lot of fun. I, I actually warmed up for this talk by doing a 60 minute test on my bicycle.





Chris Case  06:13

Well, there you go.






I bought hurts, but I am ready. Awesome.


Chris Case  06:22

That’s a true cyclist. Let’s Let’s start by defining some terms that start with aerobic versus anaerobic.


Dr. Steven Seiler  06:30

Oh, great, great place to start, because it is just fundamentally misunderstood. It seems we tend to overestimate the anaerobic contribution in endurance sports, and we tend to underestimate the aerobic. So I can give you data just to exemplify that a two minute all out effort. You know, if you do a two minute race, then about 65 to 70% of the watts you produce or the energy you expand will be accounted for by oxygen that you consume. During those two minutes. Another words, aerobic, so even a two minute race is two thirds, aerobic. Wow. So you can imagine most bicycling races, they are very much dominated by the aerobic energy system, your ability to to use oxygen and deliver oxygen to the muscle and then convert this to, you know the muscular contraction. So we have this tendency to call, just because you have blood lactate above four millimolar. You say oh, now we’re anaerobic? Well, that’s wrong. It just means that there is a higher glucose contribution, there’s a higher leakage of lactate production, but there’s still a huge aerobic and dominantly aerobic contribution. So that’s the first thing we got to get clear on is that Cycling is an aerobic sport, it’s an endurance sport, it is not an aerobic sport. The exception to that would be the kilos on the track the sprint, those you could say that they they no longer correlate with aerobic capacity, but everything from the 4000 meter individual pursuit to a four minute race and up. It’s all about the aerobic system.


Trevor Connor  08:30

So something that gets really popularized over here, particularly in North America is this concept that in a race, at the end of the race, there’s a lot of attacks, and you have to sprint. And that’s why people say that Cycling is an anaerobic sport, because if you don’t have those big anaerobic fibers to to do those attacks to be in that sprint, you’re not going to win the race. And there is some truth to that. But just to give you an example, I have had several athletes come to me and say I’ve got to work on my top band, I’ve got to work on that jump. And I’ve learned whenever they tell me that, like send me some race files. And when I look at their race files, the two hours or three hours before all those attacks start happening. They’re just below their threshold. And the point I make to them is if you’re just below threshold, I don’t care how much top end work you do, you’re gonna have no jump after three hours. If you’re in the race in the field before all those attacks happen at at 80% nose breathing, you’re gonna have a jump. And that’s what people forget. They don’t work in that aerobic side. So they are just struggling to hang on and when they they get to the part we have jumped in like I know top in it’s no you don’t have the endurance you don’t have the aerobic side.


Dr. Steven Seiler  09:44

Yeah. I mean, that’s that’s exactly what I would say is that they that’s the misunderstanding is that it’s the endurance that sets that creates the platform for the top band. It’s not that anaerobic burst.


Chris Case  09:58

Let’s let’s keep moving Help us help us understand lt one and lt two. Dr. Sadler.


Dr. Steven Seiler  10:04

Well, what we would like to know is that intensity range where you’re, you’re starting to push the glycolytic machine, you’re starting to generate quite a bit of lactate in the musculature. We want to find when it first starts, which we call lt one. And then we want to find the point where it goes kind of out of control in the sense that it doesn’t stabilize blood lactate just keeps climbing, because production just exceeds the ability to remove it. So that from the start of a kind of a clear increase in like appearance to the point where it’s no longer sustainable or no longer olymp can be eliminated at the same rate as produced. That is that area between lt one and lt two that we in a laboratory would try to identify with with advanced technology.


Trevor Connor  11:01

So I was given this a lot of thought last night and this is an oversimplification, but an easy way to think of these three zones or these two break points. And lt two, just a reminder that you know, in the US when you’re talking about FTP or anaerobic threshold, you’re you’re getting at lt two, lt one isn’t talked a lot about in the US, a lot of people aren’t even aware that we have these two break points, but a simple way to think about them. And I’m terrified to say this doctor salary because I’m worried you’re immediately gonna go Trump as the worst way to think of it possible. But we have three types of muscle fibers everybody’s aware of we have your type one pure aerobic fibers. And then you have two types of these type two fibers. Type two A, which can work very aerobically or work anaerobically, they can kind of they’re very plastic, depending on the type of training you’re doing. And then we have these two xx fibers, which are those big, strong, very anaerobic fibers that you use when you’re sprinting, but they don’t last very long. And so a simple way to think of it is this zone one up until lt one is when you’re basically just using slow twitch muscle fibers. lt one is that break point where you have to start recruiting more of those those two a fibers which can work aerobically, but just not as well as your slow twitch, you’re going to start building up some lactate. lt to or your anaerobic threshold is, it’s over that point that you really have to start recruiting those two acts to continue generating power. And because they don’t last very long when you’re above Lt. Two, you’re on a short timeframe. Okay, so do you want to tell me that was the the worst? worst way to think of it possible?


Dr. Steven Seiler  12:51

No, it’s it’s a reasonable I mean, it’s an explanation that is used. The idea of motor unit recruitment, as it’s called, and how, how this proceeds, it’s probably a bit more complicated than that, just because as you ride, the recruitment of these different pools of fibers changes because of fatigue, you start having to recruit some of the type to a, for example, that you didn’t need at the start of the ride. So but I think that explanation that framework is valid, that the question we have to get to is how do we make some reasonable estimates of these breakpoints without actually measuring? But like?


Chris Case  13:36

Yeah, how do you determine those three zones? If you’re not able to get into a lab?


Dr. Steven Seiler  13:42

Yeah, I thought about this, after all the comments. And obviously, you know, I work in a laboratory or have and we’ve tested 200 cyclists probably in the lab in the last few years. And we often tell them, Look, one of the reasons you come into our lab is you get this free information that helps you to understand your training. But it’s not available to everybody. So we’re using a lingo based on some measurement tools that aren’t accessible to everyone. So I decided, Alright, let what is accessible, and let’s try to reframe the intensity zones, in terms of kind of a different test regime that doesn’t depend on blood lactate at all. So I want to reach the listeners to think in terms of some some sixes. And only a few, only a couple of them are really critical. But let’s let’s start with six seconds, six seconds would be the timeframe that you would be able to produce absolute maximum power on the bike.



Mm hmm.


Dr. Steven Seiler  14:42

I mean, that’s anaerobic. I mean, that’s just pure, how explosive is this rider. So you spin them up, and then you go all out for six seconds and they’ll reach some peak power. This is this is like, sprinting and you know, the Olympic match, sprint. And you’ll see you’ll see numbers and the, you know, 1000 Plus,


Chris Case  15:05

yes area for watts,


Dr. Steven Seiler  15:06

the best in the world 2000 watts. But even average riders with, you know, they’re reasonably trained are going to break three digits on this kind of test. Absolutely. So that’s six seconds. Now, we don’t really need to test that, but we just kind of mentally know that that represents that up Brent. Now the next six or 6060 seconds, that’s your classic kilos on the track the kilometer, it’s about 60, it’s a little bit more than 60 seconds for most, but it’s, it’s 60 seconds of work all out. Well, now, that’s a pretty good measure of working man’s measure of your anaerobic capacity. But you don’t, we don’t even we don’t need to measure that either to get these zones, but they just kind of gives us a reference, Frank. Sure. Now we get to the heart of the matter, six minutes. Research shows, if I go into the research, if I if I use testing data, I can show that on average, if you give if you put a person at the power output where they they the lowest power output output where they reached vo two Max, they’ll be able to hold that if they’re fresh for about 360 seconds, about six minutes. So my first recommendation to our listeners would be that we’re going to use a six minute test as a poor man’s estimate for vo two max power. So that sets that hundred percent of your aerobic capacity, the power that would elicit your vo two max.


Trevor Connor  16:40

And that’s a little above your your power for Lt. Two.


Dr. Steven Seiler  16:45

Oh yeah. So So right now we’re talking about this is against six minute power, the best way to determine is just say this is my six minute power, but six minutes on the power duration curve. If you’re going all out for six minutes, that will put you at about your max your view to peak your view and your and about your heart rate peak. Okay, so it’s a it’s a good way to get a decent estimate of what’s my maximum aerobic capacity. So that’s kind of hundred percent on the scale. Now, the next one, yeah, 60 minutes. And that just mean, this is what that’s this mean? Yeah, that this but this is where people, this is where people cheat. I’m sorry to say it right. They but Cycling is an endurance sport. And 60 minutes is the most fundamental measure. Think about it the Hour of Power, the 60 minutes on the track. This is you know, sir Bradley Wiggins setting the hour record holding 440 watts for 60 minutes. That’s the standard. That is, so if I know what you can do for 60 minutes, I really have a good measure of your, your true race, usable capacity.


Chris Case  18:09

There’s gonna there’s going to be a surge in our record attempts. I can feel it, I can feel it.


Dr. Steven Seiler  18:15

Wait, it is the It’s so beautiful. It’s so straightforward. And there’s no way to lie about it. You either do it or you don’t what is your 60 minute power? But what’s happening is we have all these different ways these equations and different ways of getting around things. And people are going shorter and shorter. And then saying, well, I did I do an eight minute test or 15 or 20 minute test. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s not the same. Yeah, if that was the same, we wouldn’t have the 60 minute test, you know, the Hour of Power would be the you know, the 20 minutes of power times point, or divided by point man, well, then that’s not what we do. So what I would say if I’m going to be your coach, I’m going to say hey, every couple months, I’m going to get you on the bike and we’re going to do a 60 minute test. And we’re going to then we’re going to that gives us a calibration a really useful calibration. Now, again, I’m connecting this to research because research shows that well trained athletes they can hold their maximum lactate steady state for 60 minutes so it corresponds well with maximum lactate steady state.


Trevor Connor  19:21

So all of this is gonna sound pretty familiar to our listeners we actually did an episode several months ago called is FTP dead. And we talked about a test that was designed by Neil Henderson which used five seconds to get at sprint power one minute to get at are a lot of people here call your anaerobic capacity, five minute test to determine your view to max power and then a 20 minute test to get at that lt two and a Yeah, they they use a multi multiplayer point nine five and then say that so that’s a pretty good estimate of your our power and their explanation was nobody wants to do an hour test. So it’s interesting To hear you say, now go out and do that our,


Dr. Steven Seiler  20:03

if you’re a cyclist, then then I don’t understand the logic. I mean, cyclists cycle for hours. So what in the world is the problem with doing a legitimate our test? Now, let’s let’s get real you don’t need to puke you don’t need to write, but you need to do what you’re good for for an hour and that’s going to give us a rock solid watt value. That’s that’s it’s like a lie detector test, you know, it’s it’s it’s a truth serum, you know, it tells me Okay, yeah, this is this is what this person actually can do for an hour. And that gives me a good starting point for designing the training.


Trevor Connor  20:49

And something we’ve said a few times is the one issue we have with the 20 minute test is a lot of people will will do it very fresh, or they will go into their data and find the best 20 minutes they ever did. They won’t multiply it by point nine, five and go well, that’s my lt two, that’s my anaerobic threshold. And they have a number that’s way too high. And as we were just talking about, this is an aerobic sport. And if you’re doing your training based on this number that you set 3040 watts too high, you’re not really training that aerobic system. And I’m a big believer that it’s better to have that number be a little too low than a little too high. If it’s a little too low, you’re still doing some good aerobic work. But if it’s too high, you’re going to fail at your intervals, which you can be mentally very frustrating. And you’re training the wrong systems.


Dr. Steven Seiler  21:43

Totally agree. And I mean, and that’s the real reason why I’m so adamant about sticking to my guns and saying do the 60 minute tests because these 10 and 20 watt, you know, you say 3040, but it can be even 10 or 20 watt, miscalculations over estimations. It’s almost always an overestimation, I’m afraid, I’m sorry to say, you know, they that’s what it’s, it’s, it’s huge. It represents total collapse, when athletes go out 20 watts too hard in the first half hour, then it’s just a dismal result in the next 30 minutes because you missed it. And think if you multiply that times so many training sessions that people do, based on being just 2020 watts overeager, or then we’re getting it wrong. And so that’s really why I’m sticking to my guns here and say do the 60 minutes to I want you to just be able to sustain for 60 minutes so that we get a true estimate of your sustainable power. I just did one this afternoon, actually. And yeah, they’re no fun. This, the first 10 minutes is pretty good. And then it starts hurting. But that’s what I want. That’s I want to find out the truth. And I found out the truth where I was. And now I’ve got a real good calibration for for the next six weeks of training. That’s what I would want to give my athletes as a coach,


Trevor Connor  23:08

whichever in terms of the practical nature of this, what’s the best way for somebody to do a 60 minute test is it if they have access to steady climb to do it on that or a flat road or I mean, some people might struggle to find a road that doesn’t have a stop sign or stoplight on it for 60 minutes. And then of course there’s inside. So for me personally, when we’re trying to get at those aerobic numbers, I prefer to do them on the flats. And this is something for another podcast. But most people can put out more power on a climb than they can on a flat road. So if you go and do an hour climb and use that number, again, it’s going to be too high a number if you’re then later on doing your interval work on a trainer, or on a flat road, which is what a lot of people do. So I would prefer me if you want to get on a trainer that’s the most controlled But otherwise, do it out on a flat road. One other thing that and again, Dr. Seiler, you can please tell me I’m an idiot. But threshold heart rate is threshold heart rate, it doesn’t vary that much as you get fitter, it’s going to stay the same, it’s your power that’s going to change. So sometimes people don’t want to do that many one hour test. If you can get one good test and determine the threshold heart rate. I do a little bit of a cheat with my athletes where once I’m very competent in their threshold heart rate, if they go out and do a steady effort where they are holding right at that heart rate and not in the first five minutes of the time trouble. Let’s say they did a 30 minute time trial I might look at the the last 10 minutes of that time trial when when the they’re they’re at that heart rate. It’s good and steady. Look at what that power is. And that’s going to be pretty close.


Dr. Steven Seiler  24:51

Yeah, I mean heart rate is tricky here because it’s going to drift. So for me just now when I did an hour, the last four About 20 minutes on, I’m at, I’m in zone four, I’m in, in a five zone model. In other words, I’m in, you know, from about 87% of parede. Peak to, you know, I was up at around 93. At the end, you know, so it’s going to drift a bit, it’s going to be around, you know, I would guess for most people, if they’re reasonably well trained for the 60 minute power, then a fairly big chunk of that time, there’ll be at about 90% of their heart rate peak. So it’s, you know, it’s a significant heart rate and heart rate is tending to drift because of fatigue, because, you know, more motor units are being recruited. But this is, this is what cycling, this is how it works. This is a time trial, you know, heart rate, heart rate drifts up and then hopefully flattens out a bit around 90, blood lactate drifts up and flattens out. So there is it’s not a pure steady state situation. And never is, you know, in a in a race, right?


Trevor Connor  26:01

This might also be a good point to talk a little bit of you, you had mentioned the power duration curve. I know that with training peaks, particularly the Wk Oh, software, they, they use the power duration curve to actually come up with an estimate of your your one hour power. And the power duration curve very quickly is they take your your peak wattage is for one second all the way through basically the longest ride you’ve done. And obviously, if you just took the raw data and tried to graph that, it would be a very jagged looking graph. But then they try to come up with a nice smooth curve. And their belief is that that curve is going to give a pretty good estimate of here’s the best 60 minute power that you can do, which they then somewhat correlate with your FTP. And I’ve actually been finding that that’s when I do real test with athletes when I get them in the lab. It’s pretty close. But But how do you feel about it? You You had mentioned the power duration curve?


Dr. Steven Seiler  27:00

Yeah, I mean, I like the power duration curve. And again, and it does tend to be fairly predictable, in the sense that, you know, if I know your max power or average power for 30 minutes, then then I’m not going to be too surprised by your 60 minute or your your six minute, you know, so they tend to move together. If that makes sense. Yeah, you can do some highly specialized training to get a little blip, a little specialization in a very specific point on the power duration curve. But But, you know, we always talk about in Norway that when we train correctly, that entire curve shifts from four minutes to four hours, it all goes in the right direction, if we’re training correctly. And so I agree with you that if they’re able to get that and get a good curve, then it’s going to be meaningful, it’s going to, it’s going to help us make some predictions.


Trevor Connor  27:53

So let’s say we’ve done this test, we’ve done the 60 minute test. And for anybody who’s excited to give this try, Chris and I actually just recorded an episode on the our record where Chris started with a description of the last 10 minutes of his effort and how unbelievably miserable it was. So enjoy.


Chris Case  28:11

Yeah, I’ll send you a copy of the article. And you can see if it correlates with what you’ve gone through and in some of your tests, Dr. Sailor,


Dr. Steven Seiler  28:19

no, it sounds great.


Trevor Connor  28:21

We might say don’t bury yourself as much as Chris did, because he finished by almost slamming into a wall. He was so exhausted. But if you want to go that hard, go that hard.


Chris Case  28:31

The most tragic part about that is the fact that my head unit was turned off for that hour. So I got zero data we never got. I digress. Oh, no.


Dr. Steven Seiler  28:43

disaster. Yeah. The lab. The lab guy in me is crying right now. Yeah,


Trevor Connor  28:48

well, yeah, yeah, I was crying because we were writing a whole article on it. And part of my job was analyzing his data. And he finishes and goes yet no data.


Chris Case  28:56

Sorry. Yeah, you know, during the hour hour record, you can’t have the head unit in front of you. So it’s always mounted under your saddle, and the guy holding me accidentally turned it off in the process of hold off at the start.


Dr. Steven Seiler  29:12

Let’s see. Is it left?


Chris Case  29:13

Yeah, yes, it is.


Trevor Connor  29:15

So let’s continue on. We’ve now done this test. And let’s say somebody has done a 60 minute test and determined. So this is a case where you can truly say determine their FTP power. How do you determine then your three zones? How do you figure out okay, lt one and lt two and should it be power base, or should it be heart rate based or both?


Dr. Steven Seiler  29:36

I’m gonna I’m gonna lay out a power based plan and then and then go from there. But so what I would do is say that 60 minute power, we’re going to call that the boundary between the upper end of zone two in the store zone three. So that power output is going to demarcate zone two from zone three. The upper end of zone three is going to be that six minute power


Trevor Connor  29:59

So you’re not going to go all the way up to your peak power. So there’s essentially a zone for,


Dr. Steven Seiler  30:05

yeah, then we’re talking about some power outputs that are associated with anaerobic capacity training and so forth. But I’m going to kind of do a parallel to what we would call power at the max. Okay, or maximum aerobic power, and that’s going to be six minute power. Okay, so now I’ve made a line between zone two and zone three. And I’ve made a line for the upper end of zone three. Alright, now the next question is, what about the lower end of zone two? You know, what’s what, how do I draw a line between low intensity training zone one, and in that threshold area, zone two. And again, you know, you’re asking me to do some generic work that normally I’m going to be very individualized about, I’m going to bring people in and test them. But based on all the data have access to, I’m going to say, Take 80% of your 60 minute power point eight times whatever that power output you achieve for 60 minutes. And I’m going to call that the threshold or the the line between zone one and zone two.


Trevor Connor  31:12

That’s my best estimate. You’re you’re being pretty, pretty generous there. So I, I use Wk Oh, to analyze my athletes, and it doesn’t really allow me to individualize because I don’t use your three zone model. So I have to just use a percentage, even when I’ve had them in the lab and measured their their lt one, I can’t put that into Wk Oh, and I actually use 77%.


Dr. Steven Seiler  31:38

Yeah, so well, and I’m rounding, I’m choosing some round numbers. But this at least gets us in the ballpark. And then what we have to get people to do is just be true to be true to say, Well, that seems actually a little high, then. Okay, adjust. But it’ll be close, it won’t be crazy wrong. And then what I’m going to say to you is, even though I’m sitting at at point eight, I’m going to say, look, most of your rides then in low intensity zone are going to be point seven times that or point six, five times that 60 minute power. So they’re going to be I’m creating a kind of a safety margin.


Trevor Connor  32:14

Does that make sense? It does. And I will say that and one other way that you can kind of get at it. I watch my athletes 2.5 our power. I don’t ever ask them to go out and do a 2.5 hour test. But ultimately, in long rides or if they go up for the the big room training ride, you’ll get that 2.5 hour power. And I have found that actually, when when I’ve gotten athletes into the lab and tested them, that 2.5 hour power is pretty close to what we measure lt one?


Dr. Steven Seiler  32:45

Yep. But yeah, so So again, I think the most common, the whole thing tends to get shifted in the wrong direction, people tend to overestimate everything. So if we can just get people to be more, let’s just say more conservative on their power estimations for these thresholds, then we’re taking a big step in the right direction, right, with the overall training based on based on what I’m seeing in the way people are discussing things on the internet. So, you know, I’m happy to hear that you’re actually being more conservative than what I am. terms to that estimation of lt one, I just want to get people to start moving in the right direction and realizing that that they’re often overestimating these values by 2030 watts, which is it’s a lot that’s 10 15%. You know, for for for lt one for a lot of people, their lt one may be around 200 watts, or sometimes even be lower



right? to just


Trevor Connor  33:50

give a great example of that after we did the first podcast with you, I received an email from one of our listeners who was trying to figure out his his three zones. And he emailed to say that, you know, his his FTP was 340 watts. And I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but let’s just go on the assumption that yes, his FTP is 340. So He then said, well, then my zone two is 290 to 340. And my zone one is 290. And below, which I heard and kind of went, ouch. And so to give you an example, you know, as Chris always makes fun of me, I am pure, pure aerobic animal there is not a fast twitch muscle fiber anywhere in my body. I have said this many times a three year old on a tricycle could take me in a sprint.


Chris Case  34:41

Yeah. When you said earlier about people taking going into four digit numbers for Sprint’s I don’t know, Trevor, what do you got? $999 above us about 1000. Yeah,


Trevor Connor  34:53

I used to have a friend who actually now rides pro tour. So in my defense, he and I were Having a contest to see who could break 1000 watts first. And it took us a while but we are both breakaway monsters like I am the guy that likes to just break away, put my head down. And you know where I have my strength? Is that that lt one I have a very high lt one. That being said, and I think this is fairly typical of what you see people thinking of as their zone one. So my FTP right now according to both Wk Oh, and my own testing is right around 375 watts. My zone one is up to about


Dr. Steven Seiler  35:38

that tell. Tell me just so I understand how long can you hold 375 that an hour? Okay, so that’s a 60 minute value for you.


Trevor Connor  35:47

It’s a 60 Yeah, so that like I said, I’m kind of an aerobic guy. Like when I do a 20 minute test, I’m closer to a 400 Okay, so so 375 370 ish is about right for me. And I have my zone one up to about 260 on a really good day. 270 watts. And mine is as a cyclist I was the Domestique because I can’t win a sprint, but I can sit on the front of the field and make everybody suffer, right.


Chris Case  36:25

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Trevor Connor  37:20

is just going up. You can’t hear this. But his daughter is playing on the xylophone this Well, that sounds wonderful. We have a little music for the background of this episode given to us by by onika, the three year old. So before we leave determining your zones, really the last question that I have for you is how do you determine those those three zones your lt one lt two, in terms of heart rate.


Dr. Steven Seiler  37:51

Again, we have some typical values. But the individual variation is big enough that we don’t like to just throw out blank numbers. But again, like I said that 60 minute power will probably put the athlete pretty close to 90% of our a peak, you know, and that 87 to 92, three range, the average will end up being probably 88 or something because the first 15 minutes probably feel pretty. Okay. And then then, you know, the drift starts moving you into a heart rate zone, it’s more typical of interval trend, you know, the low end of interval training so that the drift of heart rate is kind of tricky. So it’s hard to you know, we have to decide in a 60 minute power test. Where what heart rate do we say that was my maximum lactate steady state heart rate.


Trevor Connor  38:45

And I will say I tend to look for a point where the heart rates fairly level if somebody does a test, and their heart rate is rising the entire time. That to me tells me they were actually a little over their threshold a little over lt two and that’s too high a heart rate. Yeah,


Dr. Steven Seiler  39:02

that’s a that’s a good point. And that like for me today, I found that ice once I got to about 90, I stayed there for most of the time. Right at the end, it’s crept up to 91 or two, I think and then so I agree with you that you should be able to find a, you know, a big chunk of a 60 minute power test where heart rate is pretty darn stable. And then I would also say for these low intensity rides, if at least if you’re on a trainer and you’re clearly in an lt, you know, low intensity motus then heart rate should really stay flat. Yep. And that’s a that’s a good quality indicator of the session that Yep, you’re where you need to be or it’s 70% of heart rate peak or, you know, something like that and it’s just, it’s just staying nice and flat. And you need to hydrate you need to make sure you have I want to point out for people that if they do these sessions on a trainer, you know, the tests that They need to have a fan, you know, they should have tried to make sure that they’re getting cooling evaporative cooling, because you know, the missing element in the on the trainer is as you’re sitting still, and so you don’t have that, that good air exchange. So I’m sure everybody who lives in warm areas learns this real fast. Even I in Norway had to buy a big, big fan this this this summer, because I was, you know, it was just too warm and the rides were too hard without without the fan, right. So that’s important, you know, the testing needs to meet, you need to make sure that you’re getting good evaporative cooling,


Trevor Connor  40:39

something I’ll add is when I prescribe these own one rides to my athletes, I do it by heart rate, not by power for exactly what you were saying. If you’re going out and doing a four or five hour ride, and you start at 200 watts, that might be your zone one, but by the end of that five hours, you might be well into zone two, because of that effect of cardiac drift. Where your your zone one heart rate is your zone one heart rate, even if your your power is plummeting. You know, again, it’s a huge ballpark. But I tend to put lt one at about 8583 to 85% of lt two.



Are you talking the heart rate?


Trevor Connor  41:19

The heart rate? Yeah.


Dr. Steven Seiler  41:21

Yeah. So maybe we need to put some numbers. See, I tend to I tend to percentages of percentages tend to get tricky. So I tend to reference everything to heart rate peak, what’s your high, what’s your peak heart rate. And then, so I, if I were to use my heart rate peak, or in testing, we find the heart rate peak of our athletes, and then we just refer to that as a percentage of that.


Trevor Connor  41:45

You have noticed in the research, you’re always use the peak.


Dr. Steven Seiler  41:49

Yeah, cuz it’s just it’s just a reference. Otherwise, you end up kind of taken percentages of percentages, and then most people get a bit confused. So I try to just take a percentage of 100 100 is, you know, heart rate peak, it’s the highest heart rate that you see, during cycling, ever. What percentages would you have? Lt. And lt one? Yeah, so then based on that, then I would say lt one. In terms of where I want them riding at, in a low intensity ride, they’re probably going to be somewhere around 70% of heart rate peak, they may be as low as early on in the ride 63 or four, and then they drift a little bit up, but they they shouldn’t go above 75% of heart rate peak for the whole ride. Okay, that’s, that’s a typical low intensity ride.


Trevor Connor  42:42

So you’d have lt one at the top end of it be about 75% of your max heart rate.


Dr. Steven Seiler  42:47

Yeah, it’s ballpark, it’s, if they’re really well trained, it might be a little bit higher, but it but again, I think it’s reasonable to start with something conservative, and then just over the weeks and months adjust a little bit. So 75 is probably not too bad. As an as an estimate 75% of heart rate peak. And then, and then steady state will be more like 8586 87 mm, the LT to


Trevor Connor  43:16

right as a percentage of heart rate P. And just to throw some numbers in my heart rate numbers are fairly typical, pretty close to what I see with a lot of athletes. My lt two so my my anaerobic threshold heart rate, whatever you mlss, whatever you’d like to call it, is right around 172. So I have my aerobic threshold. And again, this was measured, all measured in the lab, my aerobic threshold, or the top end of my zone one is around 144 beats per minute.


Dr. Steven Seiler  43:49

  1. But what’s your peak heart rate?


Trevor Connor  43:53

I haven’t hit too much lately, but it’s right around 184 185. Possibly a little lower. Okay. So yeah, that’s probably a little outdated, I’d say probably closer to 181 and 182. I haven’t hit it recently, but even doing I don’t like going that hard.


Dr. Steven Seiler  44:13

Yeah, but but I mean, you’re, you’re well trained. And that’s, that’s you’re at 90 to 93% of your heart rate peak. And that’s, you know, that doesn’t surprise me on a really well trained guy. Typical people coming into the lab, they’re gonna hit it a bit lower, they’re going to they’re going to be at their lt to at just under 90%, maybe at 678. But your your fitter, your and that’s your more representative of an elite level performer. So that number doesn’t surprise me. But it’s but it’s up right. It’s upper end of what we see. Yeah, but


Trevor Connor  44:50

the the key point that I do want to show with mine is as you said, I’m at the upper end, and when I tell people how low the top end of my zone one His heart rate again, I get that response of I would fall over if I wrote it that heart rate. And I’m doing a lot of my zone one rides even that’s a top in my zone one rides. I’m often in the 120s.


Dr. Steven Seiler  45:11

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that’s you’re doing what we see. Elite performers do the, I was watching yesterday, the European Championships and running and a Norwegian key, the 17th. The day before yesterday, won the 1500 meters in the European Championships. Again, he’s 17 youngest ever to win a gold medal in the European Championships and 84 years. And then 24 hours later, he ran a 5000 meter and he won that to Wow. And then 17 years old, and just dominated and, and he when they they were doing a kind of a package on him and he’s running in a second dam. He’s running slow, I could run with it. You know, but but he was running a, you know, an easy session. And, and it was easy. I could even look at it and say, Well, he’s actually running really easy. But I also know that when these guys do their hard interval sessions, they are just absolutely inhuman. That’s that’s that yin and yang that I think a lot of people are missing a Cheyenne Flanagan, she tweeted just the other day she is she had done some really tough intervals. And, and she wrote endurance equals speed. And what she was saying is, you know, her speed was pretty darn good. Because he’s matured, and has the really deep endurance. You know, Shinae, Shang Flanagan for the non running crowd is the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in like three decades or four decades or something. So yeah, yeah. So she’s just, I just love the quote, she says, you know, even when I’m doing ordinary training, I’m preparing for something extraordinary. And I think that’s kind of the mentality that we see that maybe our, our well meaning amateur crowd is missing out on is that a lot of the work that prepares you for the personally extraordinary is feels pretty ordinary, but it needs to be done. Yep,


Trevor Connor  47:17

you can’t be going out and racing every ride, you have to do some of the just get the work done.


Dr. Steven Seiler  47:22

No, it’s just, it’s just the patience. The, again, an expression I learned in Norway is this idea of eating the cake and making the cake. And most training needs to be about making the cake. In other words, just the boring process of building resources. And then occasionally, we have training sessions, where we really eat into our reserves we dig in, we test the limits of what we’re able to do, but that can’t happen too often. And so, in comparison to how often we eat the cake, we need to be better, darn well make sure that most of the time we’re making cake or else the mass not going to go up, it’s not gonna work. If that makes sense. You know, we’re, we’re gonna eat into our reserves. And we’re going to stagnate.


Chris Case  48:08

I think that’s an extremely pertinent point is the psychological component here. Because if you are used to writing a different way, or using a different model, or you just or you just can’t let go of some of these big numbers, once you do latch on to the three zone concept, once you start actually abiding by the, the limits, you’ve put on your different zones. At first, you’re going to be like, Man, this is so slow, this is not going to be doing anything for me, this is too slow. You know, there’s that mentality. Like, I think we’ve mentioned it before the three of us in the US particularly No pain, no gain, but there is a lot of gain to be had from these slow rides.


Trevor Connor  48:54

So Chris, when he was training for dirty Kansa, which is his 13 hour event, I had him doing a ton of these zone one rides, and especially riding very close to his lt one. And his first response was that he’s like, I’m gonna fall over. This feels so slow.


Chris Case  49:09

Yeah, well, I’m the opposite of Trevor. I’m totally anaerobic most most of the year, and we were trying to reinvent me, Chris case into Trevor Connor. Basically, we were trying to turn me into something else. And so yeah, those those rods felt ridiculously slow. And that that’s what I get. That’s what I mean by that. Psychological components. Some people just need time to wrap their heads around. how slow is zone one and it’s can be pretty slow. It depends on the person. Of course, everybody’s different, but


Dr. Steven Seiler  49:39

it will the thing I want to say is but that that’s how it feels for the first hour, but then comes the second hour, right? And the third hour, which a lot of people unfortunately don’t do. It’s it’s fly and die. So how did it feel for you by the time you were at the third and fourth hour,


Chris Case  49:56

right? Today? It’s a different situation at that point. It starts To wear you down in a different way. And it’s, it’s interesting too, that people will will ask, Well, can I just skip those first couple hours and get to that third and fourth hour and make it that hard all the time, and you’re like, no, there’s certain things, you can’t cut corners on this.


Trevor Connor  50:16

And that’s when I get athletes to go out and do these rides for the first time, that’s the response I get, they go, initially, it felt very slow, there was never a point where I was really struggling, they say, by the end of that four or five hours, and you need those longer rides, to really get the benefits, they say, I was fatigued, I was really fatigued, just fatigued in a very different way from what I’m used to.


Dr. Steven Seiler  50:36

Yeah, I used to always use the analogy that that these kind of rides these long intensity you empty, you feel empty, when you’re when you’re finished. And one of the ways I tell athletes to see Am I in the ride zone is, man, when you come off a ride like that, you should just feel like you can go straight to the dinner table and just start and just start filling the tanks because you haven’t, you haven’t created a big sympathetic response. But you have really emptied the system, you’ve used a lot of energy, and you need it fill the tank. Whereas when you guys know, when you do a really tough interval session, most people have a real hard time sitting at the dinner table, right after one of those or even half an hour after one of those because of this sympathetic response. So that’s one of the ways I always use just a poor man’s way of saying, All right, were you in the right zone, you should be able to go straight to the dinner table after this workout, if you if the goal was a low intensity session,


Trevor Connor  51:34

right? Again, to just give some numbers and some ideas. So you’ve heard what my numbers are, I will frequently go out and do the these zone one rides. And I have two types. There’s one where I ride right at that lt one or just below it, but quite frequently when I go out and do four or five hour rides. So remember, again, my FTP is 370 ish, I will average 180 170 watts on these long rides. And I have a lot of athletes with ftps closer to 280, who say I could never go out and do 170 watt ride I’d fall over. That’s way too slow. That’s That’s how slow I’m doing them. To give you an idea. I mean, this is this is not killing yourself.


Dr. Steven Seiler  52:17

And but you’re doing it for four hours, you know, and that’s really important. It’s intensity times duration, we have to think about that, as the signal is is both the intensity that you’re working at, but also the duration. So when these athletes say, Well, yeah, I could never do that, well, they tend to want to shorten things up. But you’re doing the work. And that’s what we see with elite athletes is there are no shortcuts, you need to do the first two hours to really get the benefit of the second two hours. Because you’re you’re creating some conditions in the in the muscles that are important for signaling adaptations. So that’s that’s the nerdy science of it. But there’s just know, there’s not a shortcut there. You can’t bypass the first two hours. I guess the only thing you could do on terms of bypass and it would be related to your nutrition that you can actually be partially fasted you can train before breakfast, which may help you to move into a fat utilization motus faster. So there’s a few things we might could do there. But But otherwise, there’s really no shortcuts.


Trevor Connor  53:28

Absolutely, I agree. But so I will say that probably the most researched article ever wrote was about Is there a value to the long ride? And and I am a strong believer that there are things that you get out of a four or five hour ride that you can’t get any other way. And it sounds like you’re very much in agreement with that.


Dr. Steven Seiler  53:50

Oh, absolutely. I mean, at least you know, most of the research we have in the lab really doesn’t go beyond a couple of hours. But even in that span, you see that there’s just a big difference between what happened say in the first 45 minutes and what happens after in terms of fat metabolism and so forth. And then if we just look at the realities of watching pro riders develop, we see that some of these guys it takes several weeks, or multiple years before they’re able to truly handle the longest classics, you know, the six hour races. And they they’ve just got to have an immense amount of volume. So obviously there’s something happening because they’re their vo two Max is not increasing their threshold powers are not changing, but they’re getting better at something that we’re not measuring very well in a laboratory. And I think that’s one of our weaknesses in laboratory testing is we’re not able to really account for this biological durability and sustainability that develops with those long rides. Oh,


Trevor Connor  54:52

I agree completely. And so the the theory that I ultimately landed on in this article, which actually came out of a lot of your research You know, we need to train those those two a and two x fibers. But as you point out above a certain intensity, you build up autonomic stress. And that’s what leads to burnout. The The great thing about the the long ride and you brought this up at the very beginning of the podcast is you get that fiber cycling, which is, you know, even though we say slow twitch fibers are don’t ever fatigue, that’s more theoretical, in reality, they do start to get tired on a five hour ride, you start cycling through muscle fiber. So you start recruiting even at low intensities, those to a fibers and sometimes even those two x fibers. So you’re actually training those other fibers, which you’d normally use and only get hit with with high intensity work, you’re now training them with low intensity work without building up autonomic stress. And you’re also forcing those fibers to work more robustly. And there’s big gains to both of those. At least, that’s where I landed with the article that I was always very interested in how you felt about that theory.


Dr. Steven Seiler  56:00

Well, it goes back to some really good research by guys brewing, it was a belt, I believe Belgian investigator that studied horses, Karl foster has done some work. Others have done this work around the idea of training monotony, that one of the best ways to overtrain an organism is to subject them to just daily stress that that is at the same level. And that’s, that’s what happened with horses is that when horses when their easy days were made harder, they fell apart. When their hard days were made harder. They they were able to handle it. And so the concept of training monotony, I think goes right to the heart of why polarized training works is that we we want to, we want to keep a lot of the training, what I would call under the stress radar, we want to train signal adaptations at the muscular level without turning on this big stress response. Because every time you turn it on, if you turn it on repeatedly, then you actually what actually happens is the body starts to lose the ability to mobilize, you start to stagnate, you start to lose your last gear. We see this in tour riders and the end of a three three weeks stage race they they can’t hit peak heart rate, their peak heart rate actually drops. That’s because they are becoming essentially they’re overreaching they are achieving this this monotony this this stress monotony. So that’s why when they get when they get finished with three weeks stage race, they’ve got to decompress and really write easy for a while. So I totally agree with what you’re saying. And I think that’s what elite athletes are very good at is, is managing the the training so that they don’t turn on that stress response too often. But when they do they they kick back. But they stay under the radar a lot with low intensity training.


Trevor Connor  58:05

Notice that I said the theory I landed on and not the theory, I came up with one that was talking about the long ride, but makes my job on the best jobs in the world as I get to spend a Sunday morning talking with people much smarter than me like Dr. Seiler. Another much smarter person and big name in exercise physiology is dr. john Holley in Australia, who has been at the forefront of endurance sport nutrition research for over two decades. I interviewed him for my article on the value of long rides. And here’s what he had to say.



The longer you go, the more you tend towards free fatty acid oxidation. But But again, you’ve got to remember that unless you’re doing a five hour ride race at that pace, it doesn’t necessarily help race in all it does is build a metric a pillar is again it gets the muscle used to use in fat and turning on beta oxidation and all these, you know adaptations of the muscle, which you know about So, yes, that there is a point to that. But again, when I send you the articles, you’ll see that if it’s a race situation, at the end of the day, even if it’s a three hour race, it’s carbohydrate dependent and not fat dependent. Having said that having the ability to utilize fat at the highest rates possible. It is an advantage in long endurance events. The great New Zealand coach Arthur lydiard, you know, coached probably half a dozen Olympic gold medalists, you know, it even have runners like Peter Snell, who won the 800 and 1500 doing very long Sunday morning runs sometimes up to 20 miles and Snell, if you talk to him now know Peter reasonably well, I’d say look, I’m not quite sure what I was doing at the time. But now, you know, he’s an exercise physiologist at Southwest in Texas. And he said, Look, you know, now I know the physiology behind this. The other thing that the rides do is go through the whole fiber population. If you just go out and ride for an hour, yeah, you’ll tap into some slow twitch fibers and you do this and you do that but by going along and almost going to exhaustion at that sub maximal power. You’re then asking the muscles to recruit the slow twitch fibers, the fast twitch and fast twitch Bay. And unless you do very high intensity intervals, I don’t think you do that. So you’ve got two ways of tapping into that fiber population, either go long and slow to exhaustion, or basically, you know, do high intensity and wipe them all out anyway. So I think another advantage of the long long ride is to is to get all the fibers active. And at the end of those rides, you’re calling on fibers like the two A’s and two B’s which aren’t that reduced or aren’t that good to do in that endurance. And I think that’s an important thing as well to, to make sure that all the all the fiber population has been recruited and has that potential to use as much fat as it actually can. The to B fiber isn’t very good at that. But use use everything, you’ve got type thing, and that’s another reason for doing a long ride, we often do rise to exhaustion in the lab, and you know, they’re fine for the first hour, you get to the secondary, it gets a bit tougher, and you get to the third hour, the workload hasn’t changed. But of course, the fiber recruitment hasn’t to be fibers don’t like working at 250 watts, they prefer working at 550 for 30 seconds. So it’s a really hard ask if the muscle but only by using the muscle and driving it to that point, do you actually recruit it so and I think that’s a very important reason. In fact, I put that right up there as with with fat burn in the recruitment pattern is vital. Yeah. And, you know, Steve’s done some great work on the polarized training, and that if you look at the rowers, and the cyclists, and probably even the runners, you know, this is huge volume of amin, let’s just call it steady state aerobic work, and, and it’s peppered in between with very bits of high intensity or even super maximal intensity. And again, that seems to be what works for the athletes, I’m not sure you need to do intervals all year round, I’m not sure. Really how long you need to do intervals for you know, if you want to get really, really short, my guess is you can probably do this in three to six weeks. And if you look at a periodized training program, if you’re looking at that intensity, I wouldn’t certainly wouldn’t do two sessions of intensity a day. And I probably only do two maximum of three a week Anyway, you know, with cyclists, probably probably two, when we’ve done our training interventions are eight times five minutes sets with a cyclist, which again, it’s in the literature, you can read that, you know, we’ve only done we’ve done three a week. And that’s that’s been tops. But any more, and I think you’d probably go over the top, I really do think two to three sessions, the top level is all you can handle all of those really intense stuff. And when I say intense, I mean glycogen stripping, high carbohydrate, high absolute power outputs or speeds and you know, the actual work time probably 30 to 40 minutes maximum.


Trevor Connor  1:02:39

Let’s get back to the conversation and pull it all together addressing the question of how to map out a polarized weak.


Chris Case  1:02:46

And that’s a that’s a perfect segue into what we should talk about next, which is something that you’ve found in research from the many, many elite athletes you’ve you’ve tested over the years, this distribution of 8020, or even 9010. of slow, steady, easy work, versus the super high intense work that these athletes are capable of and and how does that apply to the regular guy out there that maybe doesn’t have so much time? Maybe you could give us first a quick refresher on the 8020, or even 9010 split that you’re seeing in the data?


Trevor Connor  1:03:27

Yeah, and I will quickly mention, we’ve had a lot of questions, emails and tweets asking us, how do you determine if you’re doing 8020, or even the 9010. So definitely, people are looking for some clarity of how to execute this.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:03:45

So there’s two ways to go about it. And I think the most legitimate or most realistic way, is to think of it in terms of putting your training your entire training sessions into three different categories. It was either a low intensity session, it was a threshold oriented session, or it was a high intensity session. Now, what I mean by that is what was the goal of the session, what was the main work part of the session geared at if it was a low intensity session, and that doesn’t mean that you didn’t maybe pop up into the threshold zone a couple of times as you were climbing a hill, but the vast majority of the entire session was low intensity, you never really felt like you were out of breath, then you put it in the box, low intensity. Now, if you purposefully did three times 20 minutes at your threshold power, well then now that’s a threshold session. You may have done some warm up and some cool down that were at lower intensities, but the main focus of the session was that you wanted to be in zone two in this in this three zone model. So that’s where you put that session, in your in your categorization. And then finally, of course, if you’re doing interval training and, you know, six times four minute It’s 92% of our re max. Well, that’s his own three session, even though you may have done a 30 minute warm up at low intensity and a cooldown, the key component of the session was hard. And so it’s his own three. Does that make sense? So this is called This is a categorical way of distributing sessions. And it makes sense it actually it works really well. And this is the way that the way of describing training and training intensity distribution, that was the basis for the 8020 proposition or the 8020 description that we said 80% of sessions are low intensity, and then 20%, or zone two, or zone three. But that got kind of converted from from many into time, they said, oh, I’ve got to be at, you know, zone two, or 320 percent of the time, that turns out to be a lot, right? That’s not for most people that’s not sustainable. We even did a study where we just looked at all the same training sessions, but analyzed them different ways. And what we found was is that if an athlete is following an 8020 model, then the time in zone will end up being around 9010.


Trevor Connor  1:06:11

Yep, one of our listeners actually emailed in and said, I can’t believe you can get any benefits from this. So he gave an example, with the 9010, saying, if I train eight hours a week, that means only he calculated to only 48 minutes, at any sort of high intensity effort, he said, I can’t get fit doing that.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:06:34

Well, then, then he should do what he wants to do.


Trevor Connor  1:06:37

But so I replied back to him, I actually have a chart that shows each week, how much time my athletes spend at 90. So 90% of lt to up to all the way up to the their peak power. So it just adds up that time. And it color codes in terms of from 90% to 100% of lt two, and then the the hundred to 120%, which is vo to max range, and then all the time above that. So I have mine here. And to give you an idea, because I trained very polarized, I train about 14 hours a week, I averaged around 13 to 14 hours per week. And it says that my average time per week at 90% of lt two or higher is an hour eight. Yeah. And that’s 14 hours of training a week. So when he said you’re less than



10, you’re at like six 7%,


Trevor Connor  1:07:33

something like that. Yep, something I’ll throw in. So a few of the the people who emailed in saying I can’t believe this at 20, or the 9010. Even when you do it by just pure time that it could be that beneficial. So I emailed back to them. And sorry to keep using my data, but it’s readily available. And I don’t have permission to use my athletes data. But also just you know, as I said, I trained polarized I’m 47 years old, I’m one of the oldest guys in North America is still racing in the pro races. So I’d like to say that that it works. And here’s just quickly I’ll run off a week of my training just give you an idea of how slow slow is and how much high intensity work you do. So this and you can look this up in Strava. So starting Thursday, July 19, I did a 3.5 hour ride where I went to the local 25 minute time trial and varied myself in that time trail then I rode around easy for a bit and then I did some interval work. So that was a big day. And that was getting a lot of good intensity. Then the next day it was a 1.5 hour ride where I averaged 136 watts. The Saturday and this is in Toronto, I’m in a big city so you do a lot of stopping. So these waters get really low. But if I was out in open roads, you know add 20 watts. The Saturday I went out for a 3.5 hour ride and this was out in the country and averaged 125 beats per minute, hundred and 98 watts. So again, pretty easy ride. Sunday. I was had a race. I was working for a teammate. So I got on the front of the field and for an hour and a half I average 320 watts. Because that was my job for him to get him set up for when the attacks happened. The attacks happened I of course went out the back because I just done an hour and a half time trial or close to time trial. And then just continued riding at right at my lt one to get some good training and made a four hour ride of it. Then Monday and Tuesday I did nothing Wednesday I went out for an hour spin averaging 113 watts Thursday, a 1.5 hour ride averaging 134 watts 97 beats per minute. Then Friday I went and did four by 10 minute Hill repeats at 403 80 to 400 watts. So good hard efforts. And the last one I actually did a 14 minute Hill repeat Then the Saturday I went out for a 4.5 hour what I call aerobic threshold rider that’s right at that lt one. And I went out with a friend. So I ended up averaging 212 watts. But but that’s because when I was at lt one, so right around 260 watts, I was doing about 37 kilometers an hour, and he kept yelling at me to slow down. So that’s not my training. That’s,


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:10:27

that’s nice. Yeah, that’s, at least I would, I think most of our listeners would be extremely happy to be able to, you know, do some of those powers on the upper end that you talk about. So obviously, what you’re doing is working. And it’s and it’s totally in line with what we see from the best cross country skiers in the world, we have data on former world record holders and distance running, that we have data on cyclists. So you’re, what you’re describing is, is, it’s not crazy to me, because I’ve seen it in the best in the world. But again, people misunderstand this idea that, you know, when you’re doing these long rides, it just means you’re just lazy. And, you know, but when you, when you go hard, you go darn hard, you know, an hour and a half at 330 watts is not something most people can do. And it’s tough training, and you packaged it with other hours of training. So your total training load for that session was was huge. That’s what I saw I heard in a couple of years is that you, you also tend to, you pack an interval session in to a longer session. Yep. Which, which even adds more, you know, that means that that overall session is one very representative of racing in to very demanding. So So, you know, people need to understand that these days are tough.


Trevor Connor  1:11:55

It’s also you know, going back to what you what you’ve shown in the in your research that to high intensity sessions per week is great three, doesn’t really show any more gains, if you start doing four in a week, you’re gonna start pushing burnout very quickly. And more, what I see is with athletes who are doing trying to do for high intensity sessions per week, they’re always fatigued, so they’re never really that hard. So my approach is, I’m only going to do a couple hard days, in a week, and you saw in between just how easy my easy days were. But when I’m doing a hard day, I’m gonna make it hard, I’m gonna make a count.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:12:35

Yeah, and that’s, you know, that’s kind of the the bottom line. And if I were to bring you into a lab and do a lactate profile on you, we would probably see that your blood lactate for the, you know, in the low intensity zone is really low, I suspect, and, and it stays just flat and low. For you know, first 100 120 550 175 200. And then when it finally pops, when it finally goes up, it’s just a very clear,


Trevor Connor  1:13:03



Dr. Steven Seiler  1:13:04

That’s the, that’s, that’s what we see with really well trained endurance guys that do, do the low intensity, collect the time at low intensity, do the high, they get that profile that just flat as can be, and then just a very sharp, clear inflection when they hit their threshold. What we see with typical weekend warriors and amateurs is that they have to millimolar lactate on their first you know, measurement, and then it just kind of goes up from there, there’s they don’t have that clear break. And they, they don’t have any intensity at which they really have a nice low lactate measurements. So they they’ve got this kind of lack of metabolic control,


Trevor Connor  1:13:46

right. And that’s simply when I analyze people’s lactate test, especially when somebody new and as you said, they don’t have that endurance, what I often show them that graph and explain to them, you’re working that top end, so I point to where they’re at four to sometimes 1011 millimoles. And saying, all your training is trying to train that side of it, we actually need to be training the left side of that graph, bringing it down to one millimoles and seeing how long we can keep you below two millimoles. And people neglect that because that’s that long, slow, easy training that people think isn’t beneficial.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:14:22

Yeah, so the best predictor probably of elite cyclists, the pro guys would be what’s their lt one power? You know, and you would see that their lt one power is just so much higher than the average amateur.


Trevor Connor  1:14:37

We’ve had this conversation with the doctor and Hugo song Milan who’s worked with some of the top tour riders and that’s what he said he said I don’t it is all about lt one and is all about training lt one for your your pro tour athletes.


Chris Case  1:14:52

Well to jump in and play devil’s advocate a little bit. Perhaps this person is like I am a sprinter. I am this or That and they’re not the kind of guy like you are that is geared towards sitting on the front. And so there’s that mental piece there that he just doesn’t think that he can get that top end. And again, I’m not saying this is truth, I’m saying that maybe this is his mentality here. He’s like, Oh, I don’t I can’t get the top ended only doing 48 minutes of high intensity work each week


Trevor Connor  1:15:24

decided this is where I love your research pointing out a the issues of autonomic stress, but be also the fact that there doesn’t seem to be really any gains of doing more than two high intensity sessions per week. No,


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:15:39

we just haven’t seen it. And we’re not the only ones. You know, you can, you can maybe see a little bump for a few weeks, but it’s not sustainable. And the other thing I point out, I used to work with speed skaters and speed skaters do a lot of racing at very high, you know, it’s it’s short racism. And we had 500 meter guys and thousand meter guys that were world champions on the team. And when I came in, I said, Look, we’re going to, we’re going to do a bit more endurance work. And, and I remember one of these guys, a gold medalist in 98, he said, I’m going to lose my power, I’m going to lose my first 200, which is it’s kind of the equivalent of the last of the sprint and cycling. I said, No, you won’t, I said, what we’re going to do is we’re going to, we’re going to make sure that you are able to sustain, and the last 200, you don’t lose as much power. Because the cost of those first 200 meters of gaining a second there is much bigger than avoiding the loss of a second at the end of the race. And all he had to do, he did much more rig, low intensity, much more long interval sessions, he ended up winning in the Dutch championships, the 500 1000 and 1500 meter, which he never did before. But all we had to do is just occasionally do very specific sprint sessions, just to maintain what he was already good at. And that’s what I would say to these cyclists that say I’ve got a 1500 watt peak, and I don’t want to lose it. I say you won’t, but but you’re going to do some very specific maintenance sessions for that. Meanwhile, we’re going to work on your weaknesses, we’re going to work on you being able to get to the finish fresher, having used less of your capacity so that you have an even bigger jump, you have an even more explosive jump. Because you know, like we talked about earlier in the interview that you’ve maintained, you haven’t had to go into your reserves. And so that’s we’re not trying, we’re not going to take away that top end. But we’re going to add to it with a broader base.


Trevor Connor  1:17:52

And something to be really aware of is that that peak peak sprint power that 1500 watts, more than anything that is genetic, you have it or you don’t if you don’t have it, you’re never gonna be an amazing sprinter. And if you do have it, you’re really never going to lose it.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:18:07

Yeah, that’s right. And that’s what I had to, we had to convince our speed skaters of that. Ultimately, they understood that it was true. But but they had this they had to feel it and see it for themselves. But but


Chris Case  1:18:21

this is in some ways very similar to what Coby Pierce has said on this program a couple times about you’re making you’re making soup or in Dr. cellars analogy, you’re making a cake salt analogy and the the threshold work the interval work at, it’s just adding that little bit of salt, two C’s in the soup, right at the right time.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:18:42

Yeah. And we did, I published a study with German colleagues back some years ago where that we had data from German national track cyclists, elite juniors, so about a third of the sample were World Championship medalists. So this was a very high performance group. And we looked at their training. And it turns out that the German cycling Federation, the only test they do is just power it for millimolar lactate, they don’t even do any of the high intensity stuff. And these are track cyclist, World Champion juniors, the only test they bothered to do is just say, well, we want to know what their four millimolar power is, because it’s a good reference point for their endurance.


Trevor Connor  1:19:27

Well, there’s a great study of the German team that won the Olympic pursuit. And they were doing all endurance work. They did not do any specific track work until nine days before the Olympics.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:19:41

It was quite a it was yorkin Schumacher. that study was 30,000 kilometers of riding. And I went into that in detail. It’s a it’s a wonderful study, and they were the first to go under four minutes for the pursuit and so but but you’re right, it was just a tremendous amount they use stage right? They used they did mostly road riding and, and just occasionally I think 21 times in a year they were on the track. Yeah. So you know, and then I set a world record, Bradley Wiggins and you know, was a track guy, David Martin, who used to work with the Australian, Oracle green edge, guys, if he was saying how they would come off the tour, and then two weeks later, they’re raid or race in the in the world championships on the track, which is quite amazing. But but the tour they just they were using the tour is volume training.


Trevor Connor  1:20:35

It’s absolutely amazing.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:20:39

One thing I would ask in other sports that I work with and do research on as athletes progress and move towards higher level, they tend to split to a two day framework where at least some days of the week, they’ll train twice. And that’s less common in cycling, I think would be fair to say, much less common. And there’s reasons for that, you know, obviously, the four hour races required training, you need to be on the bike a lot, you need to get used to that. However, I was I’m curious whether or not the amateur groups people my age are racing, you know, they’re racing, shorter races, they have time, time difficulties. Is there ever a time where we might say, Well, you know, if you can squeeze in an hour on the bike in the morning, and then another session in the evening, then you’re collecting, quote, time, you’re getting more volume in total. If that, if that works for you, then that’s that’s a reasonable thing to do, and then use the weekends for your long rides. Do you see any of that


Trevor Connor  1:21:41

I personally am biased towards keep it to one ride a day. And, you know, I’m a big believer in the value of the long ride and can get give some explanations for that. But I always say, as a coach, there’s the ideal, and then there’s life. And if it’s the difference between, if I’m working with a pro, I’m going to say no, go out and do two and a half hours in the morning, because you’re going to be on the couch the rest of the day anyway, for somebody who has a life and doesn’t have that two hours, two and a half hours in a day. Yeah, that you know, they get the morning ride, get the afternoon ride, it might, in my opinion, might not be quite as good, but it’s still better than not getting the rides.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:22:20

Yeah, and I guess that’s what I’m trying to say is I don’t think it’s as good are optimal. But I think that maybe some listeners might find that it helps them get through a midweek crisis, where they just don’t have time. If they’re like me, in my, in my real job, I just don’t have time to do three hour training sessions in the afternoon, or, or so forth. So because I’m still working. So I think some, you know, exposure to training, collecting time, you know, whether it’s two sessions or one, it’s it two is definitely better than, than not being able to train. You know, this, that this is continuity issues is we want them to be able to train as often as possible.


Trevor Connor  1:23:05

The only thing I’m going to warn against because I’ve seen this with a lot of athletes where they go, I’m only on the bike for an hour, even if they’re doing an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening to go it’s only for an hour, so I got to make the most of it. So they just sit smack dab in the middle of that zone to to make it feel like they did a workout. And that’s the one danger. And so what I tell athletes, if they’re doing two days is make one of those easy, you know, my right at 113 watts, spin the legs, maybe do a little neuromuscular work, but keep one easy. And then maybe think about doing some true quality in the other one, but don’t sit in that in between don’t sit in that zone too.


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:23:44

Yeah, I totally agree. And I think you, I even everyone, so I even do two sessions just to play with it. And if I do what I want to on the first session, I forget that I did it. In other words, it was easy enough that I actually wait a minute, I trained this morning because the intensity was low enough that you get finished and you just feel great. You feel totally just ready for the day instead of feeling like Ah, I think I actually did a pretty tough workout. So I agree with you 100%. If they split it in two, then at least then one of the two, if not both needs to be easy, really easy. Agreed.


Trevor Connor  1:24:24

Now there Dr. Seiler nor I had a particularly scientific reason for two days. But sometimes there’s a good reason to do something even if there isn’t scientific evidence showing its benefits. This was certainly the opinion of keel Reisman, a world tour rider with trek segafredo when asked about two days versus long rides. One quick note would kill refers to zone two rides that’s on a five zone model or zone two is right at lt one.



So do you think there’s ever an argument or times where you say no, you really need to keep it to one workout.


Kiel Reijnen  1:25:00

Yes, and those are the workouts where you’re looking for a very specific type of adaption that only occurs after X number of hours riding at a certain pace, you know, the kind of rides I’m thinking about are those so called zone to medium rides, where you’re really working on your body’s efficiency at being able to just sit in the back kind of is how I think of it. It’s like when you sprint at the end of a race, it’s not going to get you up the maniac wall, or the the murder free, it’s, it’s, it’s about getting you to the bottom of that, not already. So those kinds of rides requires any study effort, and you’re not doing threshold you’re not, you know, dancing around on glass pedals, you’re just writing and it’s uncomfortable, not uncomfortable for two hours, or even three, it’s uncomfortable to hold for four or five hours. And I don’t think as far as I know, and that doesn’t say a lot. But as far as I know, that type of adaption is much harder to get if you’re splitting after workout. Right. That being said, I think there are a surprising number of adaptations that are that you can gain without having to do those hours on it like that or not, it’s not a requirement or prerequisite for for those, those adaptions. So I think that it’s worth looking into the mixing this up some more. And definitely something I’ve thought about a lot because I know for me, on a purely subjective side, but doing these workouts split up is is really important for me if I’m feeling mentally tax, if I’m if my kind of CNS system is like hitting a wall, you know, if I maybe I’m three weeks through a six week training block, and I’m just like, you know, banging my head against the wall kind of thing, I find that splitting the work of workouts up like that, or having two workouts in a day is a big mental relief. So I’d love to find evidence, scientific evidence that that actually is, you know, useful for more than just a handful of adaptions the more the more, the better, in my opinion. And I also think, for guys who aren’t doing this, who can’t come home and take a nap during the day, or start the ride at 10 o’clock. For people who work that’s it’s even more important because you have an hour in the morning maybe an hour after work. And if they find out Hey, you know what i can i can make some serious adaptations, nearly all the ones I need to for racing just by splitting up my workouts. And that’s that’s huge for those guys. You know, there’s a handful of things that they may not be able to get like those upgrades we talked about but if they can get most of it out of that and that’s that’s pretty huge. Even for those of us who this is this is our job. There’s there’s always life stuff getting in the way and sometimes it is it’s nice to just be able to have a different schedule on us on certain days. Whether it’s the kid gets sick and isn’t at school or can’t go to daycare or the car needs an oil change you know there’s so many things that come up and being stuck on the bike five hours a day definitely can can get old.


Trevor Connor  1:28:11

Sorry to give kill and not Dr. Siler the final word, but hopefully that’s because we’ll get him back for part three where he’ll definitely have the last word. I think that’s probably a great place even though we didn’t even touch on interval work probably a good place to put a stake in this one. That’s it. That’s been a huge amount of great information. Is there anything else that you feel needs to be added?


Dr. Steven Seiler  1:28:34

No, not this time around. I’m happy to come back and we’ll talk about interval training because I


Trevor Connor  1:28:38

think it’s important I would love to I don’t want to over impose on you but anytime you want to come back and be part of the show. We are not going to argue we love having you having you join



Third time’s a charm so we have to do one more than perfect.


Trevor Connor  1:28:51

Thank you. So I Chris had the grown up he had a three year old emergency with this right now but I will say thank you on his behalf and definitely say thank you on my behalf and truly appreciate your taking some time on a Sunday afternoon.


Chris Case  1:29:10

That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk Advil Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. Become a fan of Fast Talk on slash velonews and on slash velonews. Fast talk is a joint production between velonews and Connor coaching the thoughts and opinions expressed on fast doc are those of the individual for Dr. Steven Siler, dr. john Holly. Kill reinen Trevor Connor I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.